In “Can Christians call God ‘Mother’?” I addressed the controversial topic of whether, er, Christians can call God ‘Mother’. It is now time to follow up by taking that conversation to the next, even more controversial, level.
This is the picture of Jesus with which I grew up. He looks like Jesus doesn’t he? High cheek bones. Flowing wavy brown to blonde hair. Very semitic, no? As a child I just assumed that this was what Jesus looked like, more or less. I didn’t realize until years later that it was an accommodation, a picture of Jesus wrought in the ethnic tones of a Northern European. I now refer to it affectionately as the Jesus of Stockholm.
I have since encountered many other images of Jesus. There is, for example, a Jesus of Africa such as this image of an Afro-Carribean Jesus complete with dreadlocks and Bob Marley’s “Jah Live” playing in the background (if only we could hear it).
The range of images of Jesus down through the centuries is truly dizzying. One gets a sense for that range by reading through Jaroslav Pelikan’s Jesus Through the Centuries.
So long as we recognize that these are conventional images, accommodations, icons intended to focus our thoughts as we think through what it meant for the word to be flesh by thinking of our flesh, there is no problem.
Or is there?
In recent years a growing number of feminist theologians have been exploring iconography of Jesus as the feminine, “Christa” they call it. Or, as I put it here, Jeanne Christa.
If it is appropriate to image Jesus as a Northern European and an African and an Asian then is it likewise legitimate to image Jesus as a woman? If not, why not?